Food Politic: Why I’m Not a “Foodie”

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Over on “Food Politic,” a “Journal of Food News and Culture,” Freesia McKee questions “foodie” culture — from it’s elitist pricing to its gentrification of “ethnic” cuisine to its hipster trappings.

It’s a great read. Hop on over and see for yourself.

Oddly enough, as someone who leads downtown culinary tours — and as a person who inevitably gets labelled a “foodie” — I agree with much of her take.

But then, as a “foodie,” my message is slightly different. During our tours — and in the many workshops that I present — I speak a lot about day-to-day eating. I encourage people to visit their farmer’s market regularly, to talk to their butcher about where their meat comes from, and to eat simple foods made from simple ingredients. I tell people to have the bulk of the food that they eat come from farmers that they can make eye contact with.

And when they do eat out, to make smart choices.

Oh, and a tater tot is a tater tot is a tater tot.

McKee brings up organic foods from the “mega-market.” It’s funny, as a person who is very careful about what I buy and consume, I find that very little of what I eat is organic.

Instead, most comes from farmers that I’ve talked to — that I’ve asked questions of at our Wednesday and Saturday markets. I can be assured that their food is probably more natural than any of the “organic” labels that you find in stores.

And, if every blue moon, I go for duck nachos or a $7 cocktail, it’s because I’m feeling extravagant. Or silly. Trust me, it doesn’t happen often. And when it does, I don’t mind paying. Usually because I know that the chef behind the scenes in an artist in her or his own right — and that their craft deserves some amount of respect. I make enough money that I should be able to spend a little of it on fancy food.

I also go to my chosen butcher (chosen for his product and his philosophy on sourcing and harvesting meats) for treats and specialty items from time to time.  While I have a freezer full of (fairly inexpensive) naturally-raised beef from a local farmer, and whole chickens from another, I love some of the more expensive heritage varieties and cuts that I can find at my “meat guy.”  It’s not my everyday shopping choice, but a luxury that I enjoy infrequently.

Here’s the thing, If I didn’t have the money, I’d still be eating ethically-raised, natural meats.  Just not the fancy stuff in the window.

As for global representation, look for a couple of evening “World of Peterborough” tours this summer where I hope to bring people to places like La Hacienda, Karma’s, and Shafiq’s — which is about as traditionally “ethnic” as we can get here in the P-dot. These folks make great food. And should be celebrated.

In short, when buying food, I always recommend purchases that: 1. pour money back into our community (both the agricultural one and the local business one); 2. are as natural as possible; 3. leave as little environmental footprint/produces as few road miles as possible; and 4. are socially/ethically responsible.

During workshops, I also recommend trying to keep food spending as low as possible. It should be noted that during the growing season, our food dollars stretch a lot further. This is because we do garden. And we buy all of our produce fresh, in season, at market.

The recipes posted on this site are usually pretty unpretentious: burgers, pizza, omelettes and the like. Here at Farm to Table, we’ve given way more workshops to school kids and university classes than we have for “young professionals.” Before going solo as a writer and food promoter, I spent a decade working in community-based education programs — and quite a few of them involved food choices.  We provide information aimed at just about anyone who is looking to incorporate more local foods into their diet.

Our message is to enjoy the foods that you like, but do it responsibly. Chances are good that the food you buy locally will be the freshest and tastiest that you’ll ever find.  They can also be amongst the most affordable.

Forget about what the poseurs and hipsters are doing. It is easy to get caught up in fashion and forget what is important about our food decisions.

Then again, if you do enjoy eating out — and the adventures that can come from the fusion of local food and global cuisine — knock yourself out. But remember, you’ll probably get the best burrito from the Mexican joint, and the best Jerk from the Caribbean place. I can tell you this: it’s where you’ll probably find me. Sure, they may not serve all-local ingredients, but, really, chances are, your higher priced fancies won’t either.  And, by asking, you might just be surprised at how much local food is coming out of these kitchens.

Really, it’s all a matter of balance.

My advice: let’s just celebrate some of the good things we have going on here in Peterborough. Let’s have fun with our food.  Responsible fun, but fun nonetheless.

Make wise choices.  Ask good questions.  And enjoy.

Bon appetit.  And cheers!

A Tale of Two Breakfasts

Wild leek and mushroom omelette, with double smoked lamb bacon. Garnished with Parmesan and black pepper.
Wild leek and mushroom omelette, with double smoked lamb bacon. Garnished with Parmesan and black pepper.

On weekends, Krista and I tend to linger over breakfast.

And our respective breakfasts speak a little about our weekend morning personalities.

I’m an (electronic) newspaper kind of guy.  I prefer few interruptions and a general conservation of personal energy. I’m generally a fan of greasy, bacon-heavy plates that take a minimum of effort.

Krista, on the other hand, is usually up and poking around the garden, making lists of things to do, and talking to her (usually) unresponsive husband.  On weekend mornings, she is often just unwrapping the goat cheese that she made the night before and picking whatever edibles are coming into season on our property.

Let’s just see what our respective breakfasts might look like on any given Sunday.

Hoser's Breakfast, eh.  Grilled backbacon and home fries with wild leeks.
Hoser’s Delight, eh. Grilled backbacon and home fries with wild leeks.

Donald: Hoser’s Delight
Back bacon (local Berkshire pork from Primal Cuts)
Potatoes (Beyer’s Farm)
Wild leeks (foraged from our secret patch)
Butter (Sterling Creamery)

1. Preheat BBQ to medium/high heat.  That’s right.  I said BBQ.  We’re not messing around with this meal.  And there is now one less pan to clean.
2. Make home fries.  I wrote a newspaper column on the perfect homefry, you can find the recipe here.  In this case, I omitted the bacon and added the wild leeks when the potatoes were 3/4 of the way browned/cooked.
3. Grill the back bacon.  Just a couple of minutes per side, until you get some grill marks and it becomes a slightly paler shade of pink.
4. Serve with tea and hockey news.

While we’re on the topic, here are some back bacon tips from those two respected hosers, Bob and Doug McKenzie. It should be noted that, depending on the season, my breakfast attire is often long underwear.  Beauty, eh?

Krista’s choice is a bit more fresh tasting.  I should point out that she took a rare page from my book and served her eggs up with some truly excellent local double smoked lamb bacon from my friends at Primal Cuts. And who do you think was responsible for this delicacy being in the fridge?  That’s right.  Donald brought home the bacon.

photo-1Krista:  Oh, My! Omelette!
2 eggs (Millar Farms)
1-2 wild leeks, plus garnish
Handful of mushrooms (The Mushroom Man)
Goat cheese (homemade chevre, using Crosswind Farm milk, see instuctions here)
Teaspoon of butter

1. Coarsely chop wild leeks, including greens.
2. Slice mushrooms (Krista used brown mushrooms from the Mushroom man at market, but you could use any type of mushroom — wild mushrooms would be even better if you have a secret foraging location.
3. Saute leeks and mushrooms very lightly in olive oil/butter — just to slightly soften.
4. Add 2 well-beaten eggs (add a bit of milk or water to make them more fluffy, if you’d like)
5. Add chevre, let it melt a bit, and then fold omelette once it begins to set and brown on the bottom.
6. Once cooked, season with cracked pepper and salt.  Garnish with a few leeks and Parmesan.

It should be noted that Krista’s morning attitude is way more old school.  Where I play my Doug McKenzie role, Krista more or less looks like this while waiting for her eggs to cook:


So folks, I’ve got to know… Which breakfast would you choose? Drop me a line!  We’d love to hear from you.



Ross Potatoes With A Twist: BBQ Roasted Potatoes with Wild Leeks

potatoes done 1

When I was a kid, I thought my dad was one heck of an innovative cook.

Well, OK, not on a regular basis…

I mean, Pop was really only in charge of potatoes and veggies — and, as we are of Maritime Canada Scottish descent, vegetables were usually overcooked carrots, beans, or peas.  I despised these mushy sides and found all kinds of creative ways of getting them from plate to garbage or toilet (including hiding them in my pants).

Dad was also our resident BBQ boss.  Again, with our Maritime background, our flame grilled meats also tended to be a bit on the overdone side. What an eye opener it was as a young teen to find that beef could actually be served with some pink it.

My siblings will be quick to add that Pop made one heck of a macaroni and cheese, but, as much as I love comfort food, I would have hardly classified that as innovative.

Where I really saw his flair for innovation was in two dishes: a cheesy, gooey, beefy mess that we called “Slop” (really, the world’s best homemade Hamburger Helper, flavoured with that essential kitchen staple: packaged onion soup mix); and BBQ roasted potatoes — always referred to by his name: “Ross Potatoes.”

While I now realize that neither of these dishes were particularly innovative — “Slop” being a product of those casserole-happy ’70’s and “Ross Potatoes” a BBQ standard — I still think of them being very much my dad’s creations.  They are a big part of my childhood memories of him, even if my mom doesn’t let him eat either of them anymore.  At least not on a regular basis.

But times change.  My folks aren’t nearly as fond of boiled vegetables as they used to be.  You can actually find quite a bit of rare beef coming off their grill.  And they’ve become appreciative of healthy, local, seasonal fare.  Actually, my mom became a salad monster sometime during the late 80’s and never looked back.

But as much as things change, others remain the same.  I’d gladly dig into a bowlful of “Slop,” for instance.  I’d probably suffer afterwards, but…

And I still love “Ross Potatoes.”  In fact, I make them on a fairly regular basis during BBQ season.

The best part of “Ross Potatoes” is that you can enjoy them as a local favourite all year ’round.  While Dad’s version was made simply of potatoes, onions, butter, salt and pepper, I often take advantage of seasonal flavours (making use of chives, garlic chives, garlic scapes, green garlic, green onions, shallots…  whatever allium is fresh from our garden or market).

This time of year, I love making use of wild leeks.  Their unique spring flavour is only available for a few weeks every year — and I love to capitalize on it.  With last year’s potatoes and local butter, these “Ross Potatoes” are pretty close to 100% local.  And until we start mining salt and growing local peppercorns, it’s as good as you’re going to get.

I’d like to thank Pop for sharing his original recipe with me, years ago.  It’s a simple one, but a classic.

And now, my take on perfection:

potatoes 1

Donald Potatoes (BBQ Roasted Potatoes with Wild Leeks)

Wild leeks (to taste)
Butter (to taste, but don’t skimp, call it a teaspoon per medium potato)
Salt and pepper

  • Preheat BBQ to 450 degrees (or so)
  • Slice potatoes to an 1/8 inch thickness.
  • Chop wild leeks (finely for bulbs and stems, coarsely for leaves).
  • Arrange potatoes lengthwise on a sheet of tinfoil (see photo)
  • Cut butter into teaspoon-sized chunks over top of potatoes.
  • Salt and pepper the potatoes.
  • Sprinkle leeks over top.
  • Wrap tightly in the foil, rolling the seams and ends.
  • BBQ on upper rack until you can smell the potatoes — roughly 45 minutes.
  • Enjoy!